When I was young I had the great pleasure to meet Earl. Blue eyes and ancient by the time I met him. I grew up with him and saw in him the grandfather, father, friend I never truly could get from the other people in my town. He said he was from Tennessee or some southern state and drove trucks for a living. He had also been in the war and had a bum knee because of it. At least that is what I remember. But what he shared with me went beyond the normal rules of life.
He taught me how to make my own beer, how to can fruits, and even make knives. I learned how to treat women right and how to live a good life. The best things about him were the ideals that many people miss when they think south. Yes there are the bible thumping hate mongers, there are the ignorant rednecks who care more about their guns then about other people.
Not Earl. Earl was a man’s man. And what I mean by that he was a man of the land, of the country, of well anything and anyone who let their work tell it rather than words. A solid handshake and his word and that was all he needed. He raised pigs for money but also bought and fixed and sold old ford tractors. I learned to take apart my first engine from him and he was the place I called home, even though I truly lived next door.
There is something to be said about the hospitality that he taught me. He had no use for racism and in fact was one of the few people in my town who saw the vast talent that I had. He was one of the only people in my life that stated just how far I would go.
You may be thinking now what does this have to do with Southern culture or society. Well see there is the rub, the south is nothing if it is not the people who made it. Yes it may be different now and when we look at the big city we may see that the south has changed. But still, if you look, you will find good people. People who invite you over for afternoon tea and talk to you. People who still value the word of an individual. People who do not care what race you are but rather who you present yourself to be.
These people vote with their mind and take the time to read up on the issues rather than let someone else tell them what they are. I find it sad to say that very few of them remain but I do find myself drinking cool tea on a hot day and remembering my time with Earl. And if I had to choose a song that would provide who Earl was it would be Randy Travis I thought that he walked on water.
So that is what Southern Norms are to me, Keep your word, say what you mean and mean what you say, treat others with respect before you expect them to treat you with respect. And you will leave a lasting life-long bond of friendship that will transcend anything out there.
Thank – you